Leadership is an outflow of an individual’s personhood as they interact with, and influence other individuals. To believe that one can separate their personhood from their leadership is a falsehood often believed by many leaders. It is the virtues leaders adhere to, and the vices they abstain from, that govern a leader’s relationships and influence with those who follow them. This is why passionately following given virtues, and strongly withdrawing from tempting vices, is such a paramount element of leadership development and practice.
Pope Gregory I is the originator of the seven deadly sins (pride greed, envy, wrath, lust, gluttony, and sloth) and the main Christian virtues (humility, charity, kindness, patience, chastity, temperance, and diligence). (Novacek, 2013, p. 10) King (2001) points out that virtues are traits of character (p. 495), while Lewis (2001) states that vices are spiritual cancer. Vices act as deficiencies or offenses that injure a community and hinder success, while virtues build communities and aid success by promoting the larger good. (Waalkes, 2008, p.28) As a leader, this is why it is vital to practice strong virtues personally, and encourage the same from followers.
For instance, a vice like pride can undermine and destroy a given community if the leader or the followers practice it. Pride is the doorway to every other vice and it is the “complete anti-God state of mind”. (Lewis, p.120) The greater option is to exercise humility in both personal conduct and leadership. Humility is a willingness to accurately see one’s self in a non-defensive posture. (Peterson, 2004) Positive psychological qualities and strong ethics are foundational to being an authentic leader (Walumbwa, 2008).
How can a leader encourage followers to live by certain virtues without infringing on people’s personal autonomy and chosen way of life?
King, R. J. H. (2001). Virtue and Community in Business Ethics: A Critical Assessment of Solomon’s Aristotelian Approach to Social Responsibility. Journal of Social Philosophy, 32(4), 487–499.
Lewis, C. S. (2001). Mere Christianity: a revised and amplified edition, with a new introduction, of the three books, Broadcast talks, Christian behaviour, and Beyond personality (1st HarperCollins ed.). San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco.
Nováček, P. (2013). Human Values Compatible with Sustainable Development. Journal of Human Values, 19(1), 5–13.
Peterson, C., & Seligman, M. (2004). Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification (1 edition.). Washington, DC : New York: American Psychological Association / Oxford University Press.
Waalkes, S. (2008). Money or Business? A Case Study of Christian Virtue Ethics in Corporate Work. Christian Scholar’s Review, 38(1), 15–40.
Walumbwa, F. O., Avolio, B. J., Gardner, W. L., Wernsing, T. S., & Peterson, S. J. (2008). Authentic Leadership: Development and Validation of a Theory-Based Measure†. Journal of Management, 34(1), 89–126.